Dear Barb – Clear Roles Help Ease Transition

Dear Barb:

I am a single mother of three young children. Recently I met a wonderful man and we are planning on moving in together. I have some concerns about my fiancé’s role in my children’s lives. My children have a strong relationship with their father and see him regularly. At times when my fiancé has reprimanded my children I felt somewhat uncomfortable. I didn’t mention anything to him about it because it really hasn’t happened very often. I know things will change once we are married. How can I bring this new man into my children’s lives without causing a lot of difficulty?

Thanks, Francis

Great question, Francis, and one I’m sure many new families will be facing.

First of all, have you had discussions with your children about how this marriage will impact their lives? The transition will be much easier if the children are adequately prepared. If you don’t feel competent to do this I would suggest speaking to a family counsellor who may suggest a couple of sessions with or without your fiancé.

Since your children have an active relationship with their father my opinion is for your future husband to be a friend to your children, rather than taking on the father role. They do not need two fathers. However, your children have to treat their soon-to-be stepfather with respect. It will be your responsibility to show them how to treat your fiancé.

As well, you will have to indicate how far you will allow him to go as far as discipline when you are not present. For example, if one of the children is acting up you can give their stepfather the authority to send that child to their room, or whatever punishment you would administer. Before you leave, make sure that your children know this is how things will be in your absence.

The primary discipline and care of your children should be left up to you and your children’s father. Their stepfather can have an active part of their life as far as enjoying family activities and assisting you as required.

You didn’t mention whether your fiancé has children; if he does, you can undertake a similar role in their life.

Again, there will always be issues to work out in any relationship and if you are unable to reach a mutually satisfying conclusion, don’t hesitate to seek counselling. Counselling works best as problems arise, rather than allowing them to simmer and accumulate feelings of resentment and anger.

Congratulations on your upcoming marriage and best of luck, Francis.

Email your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality; your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.